Not every contribution Tom Purdie makes to the Whiteland boys basketball team shows up in a box score.
And the 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior forward certainly has made his share of contributions.
Through 13 games, Purdie is flirting with finishing the 2014-15 season averaging a double-double. He leads the Warriors in scoring (16.6) and rebounds (9.3) but also averages 2.9 assists and 1.1 steals.
Yet the strong hands that hauled in 16 rebounds in a victory this season against Plainfield also provide many well-timed back-pats and handshakes to players of all ages within the Whiteland program.
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“One thing about Tom, he is probably our best ambassador. A guy who when the freshman game is starting is giving the guys high-fives,” said third-year Warriors coach Matt Wadsworth, whose squad is 6-7 entering tonight’s Mid-State Conference game against visiting Franklin.
“When you play, you need that crowd support behind you, and our student and community support has been good,” Wadsworth said. “They like the effort of our team.”
The Warriors’ blue-collar reputation, too, can in part be traced to Purdie, who puts maximum effort into every second he’s in the game.
“My teammates will tell you that I like to joke around, but when I get on the court my main focus is winning the game,” Purdie said. “It’s how we practice. What I do when I get in a game is just reflecting that.”
With a starting lineup consisting of five underclassmen — Purdie, 6-5 sophomore Mike Valle, 6-4 junior Aaron Eblen and junior guards Will Higdon and Terr’e Moss — the leadership Purdie provides, be it vocal or by example, is of great value.
Purdie tallied a career-high 31 points in Whiteland’s 70-57 defeat of Greenfield-Central a week prior to his 16 boards against the Quakers.
“I really like rebounding, for sure. Lots of points come off of rebounds, and that’s something I really take pride in,” Purdie said. “I would rather have double-digit rebounds than double-digit points.”
Purdie has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season. He’s snagged double-figure rebounds in seven games.
“Tom practices as hard as he plays. He has aspirations to be a college basketball player, and I think he’s laid a good foundation for that,” Wadsworth said. “Part of his success is his physical and mental maturity, and those are factors that carry onto the court.”
Whiteland remains in contention to snap the program’s streak of five losing seasons. The Warriors’ most recent winning season was 2008-09, when they finished 15-8 under then-coach Marty Johnson.
But halting the streak won’t be easy.
Not only should the Grizzly Cubs offer stern opposition, the Warriors’ final eight regular-season opponents are a combined 60-39. The next three alone (Mooresville, Columbus North and Indian Creek) have totaled 30 victories in 38 games.
Still, opportunities abound for Whiteland to continue to turn skeptics into believers. Despite being one game under .500, it outscores opponents by an average of 5.6 points per game and seems to have all the tools to take momentum into the postseason.
As for Purdie, he plans to keep doing what he’s been doing — scoring, boarding, dishing.
And, yes, encouraging.
“It started when I was a freshman because I remember how it was always cool to have the older players support you. We’re really just one big team here all the way down to the little kids,” Purdie said. “My parents tell me to treat people how I want to be treated.”
Which is great, unless you’re attempting to defend him.
Name: Tom Purdie
Born: East Chicago
Family: Parents, John and Cherri; brothers, Joe, 13, and Sam, 11
Favorite TV show: “First Take”
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “Like Mike”
Favorite athlete: LeBron James
Favorite team: Indianapolis Colts